thoughts on how apple can improve accessibility of its media events for blind users with aira

Accessibility Advocacy

Hi all wondering what do people think of the following idea I just had.
when apple holds its media events there are frequently visual parts such as when adverts or promotional films are shown, photos demonstrating new features etc. I had the idea that apple could work with the aira service to get an aira agent to offer live audio description during the event as a live stream so even non paid customers could watch and the description could cover the visual parts of the event, like they did last year with the super bowl.

what do people think of this idea? I have already written to apple, and I guess if this is something we would find of use we should all write to both aira and apple requesting this as presumably aira would need apples permission to either have an agent live at the event offering description or even if they were just at home doing the description.
below is what I wrote to apple, thinking I will email aira as well.

I am writing to you because every year I enjoy watching your wwdc keynote addresses and other press events which you hold. I did just have an idea of how you might improve these events for members of your audience who are blind such as myself.

Frequently during these events there are visual components such as when photos or slides to demonstrate new camera and product features are shown, adverts are broadcast and promotional videos or shown or new products are displayed to the audience.

Obviously during these visual parts its very difficult for totally blind people watching your stream of the event to understand what is happening and follow along as well as your sighted audience. The idea I have had is this, there is a service called aira which aims to make visual information accessible by allowing professionally trained agents to describe surroundings and other useful information to blind users through a users iPhone.

One of the things that aira has done in the past is offer live audio description to events that are of public interest, for example last year in the UK they described a wedding which took place between two members of our royal family and they also described the Super bowl live final as it was played.

It occurs to me that if Apple could arrange with aira to offer live audio description of wwdc and other press events held by apple this would allow for your blind users to have a much better and more detailed understanding of what is taking place.

I don't think you would need to have an aira agent physically present at wwdc as presumably they could watch at home then describe as the event proceeds but I guess if the agent was actually present at an event this would allow for a much better quality of description plus minimizing any possible delays with a stream.

Although aira is a paid service normally it would be possible for aira to offer this as a free live stream for all of its users to watch including non paying customers.

I just thought I would write and suggest this and I do hope apple might consider adopting this or trialing this as an accessibility option.




Submitted by David Goodwin👨‍🦯 on Thursday, March 21, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team


I personally think that this is a tremendous idea, and I really like the way that you present it in your email to Apple.

Not only would it be great to know what's happening in any videos, but boy would I like to know what's on the many slides shown during spoken presentations. Not having to rely on my Twitter timeline to fill in the gaps when I'm listening to Apple events would be very welcome indeed.

So, +1 here for those who will be reaching out to Apple in support of your suggestion.

Submitted by Joe on Thursday, March 21, 2019

Club AppleVis Member

Or Apple could just audio describe the content ahead of time. They already have the setting for audio describe content if it were set to on then there you go. I am a bit annoyed to the automatic fall back to Aira doing everything. Earlier on this site someone uses Aira to order something basic from Amazon are we just depending on Aira do to lazyness and not holding other companies responsible?

Submitted by alex wallis on Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hi jo, I have my reservations about aira especially there rather lack luster roll out in the UK, and I think the charges they have are utterly extortionate especially as you lose any unused minutes at the end of a month, and I highly doubt I could ever see myself actually paying for them. But the reason I suggested them is because they actually train people up to understand how to do description properly. Now of course I do much prefer the idea of apple doing description in house, and I can tell you I certainly wouldn't pay to watch a described stream, I would much rather have the best system for the job doing it though. I think it would be difficult to describe the content ahead of time, as these things don't always run to plan they can have technical issues and of course any slight mistake or over run could mean that pre recorded description could get out of sync quite easily with the actual event.
But I do agree with you people should be as independent as possible especially when it comes to shopping etc and I do think aira want to encourage a mindset of dependence.

Hi Alex I agree with your points. Sorry I hope my first message didn't come off as rude it's just a fear of mine with folks starting a dependence on a survace rather treating it as a tool.

Submitted by brandon armstrong on Thursday, March 21, 2019

I'm sorry, but to the person who says stop depending on aira for stuff, I happen to be a paying customer, and i need them for things like setting my oven, and yes i've used them for describing things. I'm not trying to be mean, but you might want to change the title of that fist message you sent. I'm not very happy with the way aira has rolled out stuff here my self, but I think if more people tell them and keep at them, maybe they will change.

Submitted by alex wallis on Thursday, March 21, 2019

no Jo you weren't rude just expressing your points. to be fair, aira do make it clear they are a tool in an arsenal rather than a magic one size fits all solution, but they do seem very keen on saying they can be used for the simplest of tasks which there are plenty of independent ok maybe slightly more time consuming ways of doing.
as I say my main issue with them is that you can't just pay for a block of minutes then use them over several months as you see fit, and that you lose unused minutes each month at the beginning of a new billing cycle and bank them as extra on the next month. I suppose that would really destroy there business model if they allowed that. also I have issues with the fact they claim to be operating in the UK, yet they don't display prices in british pounds in the app, they don't yet offer british agents, and the podcasts never refer to the fact there is a UK contact number which isn't offered as an option to call within the app itself. added to which I have heard several stories from people over issues with billing. I also think there ai cloe is hot air at least at the moment I mean really what you can ask it to do is basic to say the least and I can't ever see it catching up to the grownups in this field. anyway this is straying rather off the point, hopefully apple will consider using aira or in house audio describers for there events in future.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, March 21, 2019

How does all of the above do their events?Do they make them accessible for people with disability? How hard can it be to do so? If apple wanted to make it accessible, apple will do so. They do not even think about accessibility during their events. Using another party to make their event accessible is not even good.

Submitted by Darrell Hilliker on Thursday, March 21, 2019

I agree Apple should make the visual components of its media events more accessible, but I disagree with having Aira doing it. Apple knows their products and services best, so Apple staff should be providing description.

Submitted by alex wallis on Thursday, March 21, 2019

I get your point, and on the surface I agree, but I think the staff would need some training, as audio description isn't just a case of stating the obvious, I mean say they were showing a photo of something it would be rather pointless if the describer just said there showing a photo of whatever without trying to give a bit more detail, or say it was a trailer for a game that was being broadcast just saying its a trailer for this or that game without giving any idea of what is happening within that trailer is worse than useless. obviously you wouldn't be able to get two much description especially with very quick slide shows though.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, March 21, 2019

You know apple reports that they care about accessibility but not enough to think that their events need to be accessible. Not even that lady who was interview in applevis a while ago is not able to consider that the events need to be accessible or if she did no-one listened to her.

Submitted by David Goodwin👨‍🦯 on Friday, March 22, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I understand that Apple does typically offer audio description for event attendees, so it's possible that there are technical reasons why this isn't also included with the live stream.

I'm not a heavy AD user myself, so I would be curious to hear from others what any technical challenges might be, and whether AD is something that's commonly available elsewhere on live streamed events .

One further note on this, is that Apple does generally make AD videos of its events available online not too long after the event has ended. Not that I am suggesting that we settle for this, but it does demonstrate an existing desire by Apple to make the video coverage of its events fully accessible to the blind, so suggests that they would be open to ideas for making further improvements in this area.

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Friday, March 22, 2019

No matter whether Aira or Apple themselves do this, I 100% agree with this concept particularly because Apple's events are very often full of marketing videos.

Someone asked how the competition stacks up in this area. I haven't heard of Google doing any description for their events. Microsoft doesn't describe the events live, but immediately after most videos get posted as described versions on YouTube. Microsoft is so consistent about this to the point that even events like the monthly Xbox gaming update events get described, even though the majority of games that are shown there aren't very accessible.

I was completely unaware that audio described versions of Apple videos exist until you told me here, so clearly discoverability is a problem. Microsoft has a large accessibility presence on social media and they tweet the links there. Good to know for the future.

Technically, making a live description track should be doable. In some countries like China and Japan Apple defaults to streaming an alternative translation audio track which accidentally got broadcast on the English stream a few years ago, so the infrastructure is there. Also I'm fairly certain the events are planned and scripted ahead of time, so the description script could also be prepared before then and just read out live.

Submitted by alex wallis on Friday, March 22, 2019

Hi all, that's really interesting I didn't know either that apple make described versions of events available, I think maybe a blog entry needs to be made on this subject, and also in the meantime while apple don't offer live description of streams after events maybe applevis could highlight when described videos are available and provide links in blog entries to watch them.
as to live description in events I don't know generally, but certainly in the UK actual live audio description is fairly common in theaters for at least one performance though certainly not all performances of a given show, but this is actually done live, audience members are given a headset similar to what we get if we go to the cinema to watch something with description.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, March 22, 2019

How exactly do you find these audio-described events? I've looked on the Apple Special Events webpage, and in the Apple Keynotes podcast, but all I could find was subtitling and closed captions.

I know that Apple does describe some of the videos they produce, but I've never heard about them describing all of the videos used in an event.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Saturday, March 23, 2019

Since the purpose of this thread is audio description, here are some guidelines for audio description:

<ul><li><a href="">The guidelines from the Described and Captioned Media Program, which provides educational videos to children</a></li>
<li><a href="… requirements companies producing audio description for Netflix must adhere to</a></li>
<li><a href="">Some guidelines that came about through a research project organized by the European Union</a></li></ul>

Submitted by Kelly Pierce on Saturday, March 23, 2019

Apple shows many slides during an event. The slides include lots of written information that includes features and specifications not mentioned in the oral presentation. The people in the audience could have this information shared with them after the presentation with an Apple representative after the event. Audio describers cannot read this information in real time because it would interrupt the oral presentation. While describers could narrate the videos shown, it would still be necessary to explain the slides after the event like Jonathan Mosen has done in the past. He is now an Aira employee.

Submitted by Justin on Sunday, March 24, 2019

That is why I rarely use audio description on anything, even TV shows. I find that I can get the information from it by just listening to the main broadcast. I've watched many described content in he past where it would duck down the main movie track, then describe what is going on and I miss some dialogue in the movie that I'm listening to, say for instance in the star wars films. But, what I think apple can do to improve the accessibility of the content is to do like what Kelly said before is to have the content of the slides either described after the presentation is done, or do like what Jonathan does in his podcasts when apple has their main events.

Submitted by Tina on Sunday, March 24, 2019

I appreciate this discussion of the need for audio description during Apple events. Audio description during live events like this can be complex. If there is audio description offered during the event itself, I'm surprised this isn't offered to anyone streaming it online. If there was a need to describe each and every visual event, that would take some coordinating on Apple's part. I know some people try to address this by pausing the video to insert a description, but that can only be done after the fact.

Having said that, is there any way to post an audio described version of the event as an mp3 file or podcast on the site after the event is over? This isn't a perfect solution, but it will let you pick up what you missed.

As for AD during the event itself, this is a hard nut to crack. Presenters are moving through their presentation very quickly, so if there was the need to describe each visual component and offer that AD during the live stream, it would take a fair amount of coordination. Slowing the presentation down to add extended description for the disability community is not a good long tern solution.

Given this, I believe Aira is one possible solution, but maybe there is a way to get Apple to stream the AD along with the presentation. Or there might be a way to time code visual events so if you're on a web site or whatever, your screen reader could pick it up if you had some way to make that work.

I'm not sure what the ideal solution is for this problem, but I'm glad this discussion is happening.

In the meantime, how can we find these events with audio description, even if it is delayed? How can we then move to the ultimate goal of immediate access to the event live as well as after the fact? Thanks.

Submitted by Siobhan on Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hi. It's obvious by reading, many people want many things out of one "solution". I personally as Justin said, don't use A.D. much. For me, like audio book narrators, I am very picky. One I enjoy a lot, someone else probably doesn't like at all. If audio description were to become available on the next event, like has been proven, Joe Q missed it, so now either can't find it, or other factors have come into play. For anyone who doesn't know, Mac Rumors has a live stream with every event. I don't use their twitter, I actually go to the site. that way I can watch it as it's tweeted or whatever in real time. That might help some. Even if someone's playing a game, or a video of Jonny Ive is being played, it's pretty easy to figure it out via context. This is a solution that works for me. As for Aira and Mosen being employed, I'll just shake my head and post.